Fortune cookie

Illustration: Eduardo Recife

2 of 11
Just when she'd lost faith in herself, fortune smiled upon Heather Havrilesky.

I was 34, living in my rundown house, fresh off a breakup. It felt good to be alone, painting walls and planting flowers—but me being me, that meant there were paint cans scattered in the living room and giant bags of garden soil lining the front porch. I felt like an adult with training wheels attached. I needed to get my act together before I fell in love again, lest I attract one more flailing man-child.

I had barely made any strides toward actual adulthood when a guy who read my blog emailed me. He sounded smart and charming. We traded messages, then photos; he sent me one of himself surfing. "A handsome professor who surfs," I thought. This didn't excite so much as intimidate me. He was a real grown-up. And yet, when he asked for my number, I gave it to him.

The next day, my cell phone rang, but I couldn't find it in my purse—I fumbled through a mass of old receipts, stray pennies and decomposing breath mints, picturing the handsome surfer-professor sitting in some sophisticated chair in some pristine apartment, waiting for me to pick up. "He could never love someone as disorganized and messy and immature as I am," I thought. And just as I was thinking this, I pulled an old cookie fortune out of my handbag's filth. It said "You will be deeply loved."

The phone went silent, but I didn't care. I was staring at the fortune. It felt like a sign—not that I would win over this man, necessarily, but that one day I would be loved in all my messy immaturity. That I could be loved.

And the fortune was right. The surfer turned out to be a regular guy with regular insecurities and flaws. We've been married for eight years, and we have two little girls.

The fortune isn't what brought us together. It didn't seal our fate or convince the cosmos to gift me with a handsome professor. The fortune taught me that if I chose to see myself as worthy of being loved, I would be loved. Deeply. Half-painted rooms and all.